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New Movie Screening Room Opens for Film Studies

A new, state-of-the-art film theater opened in the BIC this fall, providing film students with a theater experience, as well as offering periodic community screenings for movies.
Mariyam Syed

Students can now watch some classics at COD’s new campus theater, with 55 auditorium-style seats and a projector screen. The room is located on the BIC’s first floor and is used for film and literature classes, as well as occasional movie events led by the faculty. 

This past Thursday the screening room hosted the original 1979 “The Amityville Horror” for COD students, community members and horror movie enthusiasts of all ages. 

Professor of English and film studies courses, Michelle Moore, began the movie screening with a discussion about how the film became sensational and hailed as a classic through the decades.

“I chose the Amityville Horror because I wanted a scary movie for Halloween,” Moore began. “This film speaks to us in 2023 because many of the issues we are facing now are similar to issues that were prominent in the 1970s – economic changes, loss of faith of government, movements toward secularity, and widespread belief in conspiracy theories and hoaxes.”

As the screening began, the film played clearly on the screening room’s projector screen wall, which preserved the original theatrical release’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio frame. The movie’s signature ominous soundtrack was crystal clear from the theater-grade speaker system. These features make the experience truly immersive and also are an important reason why the screening room was originally developed.

Photo by Mariyam Syed

Brian Brems, professor of English and an expert on film arts, described how the screening room improves the viewer experience for students, compared to normal classrooms.

“In traditional classrooms, beams of light sometimes cast onto the projection screen, or speakers garbled during moments of intense use of sound or music,” Brems described. “A state-of-the-art screening space with excellent picture and sound, as well as dark walls and stadium-style seating, would help students immerse themselves in the art form. It’s much easier to appreciate the layered textures of a black-and-white film or the auditory landscape of sound design with a space like this. It’s easy to see them [students] hooked by the films we study; they lean forward, captured by the power of images projected on a large screen.”

The screening room usually serves film and literature students in about 20 different on-campus classes, like Intro to Film Art or Film History. In the spring of 2023, the Board of Trustees approved $254,212.50 for the screening room’s construction. The faculty plan to make this investment productive for classes, faculty meetings, and other recreational community needs, Moore explained.

“It is so important to see films on a big screen with a community of filmgoers,” Moore said. “The room is used for classes as well as film festivals and other projects we are cooking up in film. Screening rooms are something that most colleges have and are integral to film studies programs.”

Brem echoed this sentiment as he described the way the theatrical experience helps students understand the power of the film medium, as well as the community viewing experience.

“Films are meant to be experienced collectively; they are a mass medium not just because they appeal to lots of people, but because they’re supposed to be screened with lots of people together, at the same time,” Brems said. “It’s wonderful to be able to offer an opportunity for students and community members to be able to see films as a part of an audience. It sure beats watching it on your phone while you make dinner.”

The film department has sought the development of a screening room for more than 20 years, Moore says for at least as long as she has been at the college. Initially, she made a proposal for the room during the 2010 renovations, but the screening room was dropped at the last minute. Now that new renovation plans for the SRC and BIC are in the works, the faculty took their chance to open the screening room.

“The screening room has been a goal of the film program for a long time,” Brems said. “After some consistent growth in enrollment in our film studies courses, we made the argument to our Dean, Robyn Schiffman, that film students deserved a dedicated space that would enhance their educational experience.”

Brem worked with the architecture firm and designers to specify the needs for the room, and it took about two years for the room to be opened this fall. The department hosted a private opening to the theater in late September, with the movie “To Live and Die In LA” chosen by Brems as a tribute to director William Friedkin, who died in early August.

“The movie is an intense examination of the relationship between art and money, filtered through the crime genre, and features a dynamic car chase,” Brems said. “The event was well attended – in observing the audience members, I could see how enraptured they were by the use of style. ‘To Live and Die in LA’ is all light, color, music and sound, and it was a great thrill to present it to a group of attendees who had mostly never seen it before.”

Mariyam Syed

The next movie slated for community viewing in the screening room is the 1991 romance film, “Mississippi Masala,” featuring Denzel Washington. The film was chosen by English professor, Jacinta Yanders, who teaches Intro to Film Art. 

I chose it similarly to how I select movies for the film classes I teach. In addition to helping students to see familiar films in different ways, I also aim to introduce them to unfamiliar films that can offer multiple paths of analysis,” Yanders explained. 

Despite its inaccessible nature, due to not being on streaming services, Yanders hopes the screening room will help more people appreciate the film.

Though ‘Mississippi Masala’ was not a box office stand out when it was released, it’s a beautiful film that is imbued with rich layers of culture and history,” Yanders said. “Luckily for us, it was added to the Criterion Collection last year. Prior to that addition, I found it quite difficult to locate the film via either streaming services or physical media, but I’m optimistic that it will now get the exposure it deserves, and I’m glad that our film series can be part of that journey.”

The screening room will open its doors for “Mississippi Masala” on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in BIC 1437.

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